The second half of 2019 has belonged to the SUV. Of the 40 or so new vehicles I’ve driven since July, only about a quarter were cars and there were a few pickups. This leaves more than 2/3 of the reviewed being of the SUV/CUV type. Interestingly, the new BMW X3 M and Mercedes-AMG GLC 63 S sum what the almighty SUV has evolved into.
These SUVs however are not meant to be consumable goods like all the others. The more “pedestrian” BMW X3 xDrive 30i and Mercedes-Benz GLC 300 are the more consumer-friendly options. The 2020 BMW X3 M vs. 2020 Mercedes-AMG GLC 63 S are completely different beasts. They are, in fact, aimed at those who have a desire sit a few centimetres higher, to crush the 0-100km sprint in about 4 seconds and out-handle most sports cars.
Essentially, these vehicles are now the new high-performance sports of the 21st Century. The X3 M, AMG GLC 63 S as well as the Alfa Romeo Stelvio Quadrifoglio, are members of a new compact SUV niche that I should be upset about but I can’t seem to be.
Anyhow, if you’re in the market for a compact AWD tall rocket, allow me to help you figure out where to spend your $100,000.
From a specification standpoint, the AMG GLC 63 S delights. Its twin-turbocharged 4.0 -litre V8 engine produces 503-horsepower and 516 lb.-ft. of torque. Other side effects include speed and much noises.
Now, while the BMW X3 M may only have 6 cylinders and displace 3.0 litres but the twin turbos more than make up for the drop in piston count. The “regular” X3 M manoeuvres about with 473-horsepower and 442 lb.-ft. of torque. The “extra-strength” X3 M Competition gains a supplemental 30-horsepower. While not quite as vocal as the V8, speed is certainly an offshoot.
The AMG sends its power through an AMG 9-speed SPEEDSHIFT MCT automatic transmission while the X3 relies on an 8-speed M Steptronic Sport automatic transmission. Both are equipped with the most sophisticated versions of their respective AWD system. The BMW, with M xDrive and the Mercedes, with its AMG Performance 4MATIC+, feature trick active differentials and heavily rear-wheel biased driving dynamics. The AMG has one distinct advantage: a solid 100% of all the power can go to the rear wheels for total hoonage, if you’re into that sort of thing.
The AMG GLC 63 S is the sprinter special. With all the torque on tap from 1,750 to 4,500 rpm, it’ll reach 100 km/ in only 3.8 seconds. Despite being down on twisting power, the X3 M covers the launch in 4.2 seconds. The Competition sauce variation cuts 0.1 seconds to the time.
Chassis-wise, once more, both vehicles get the best that the manufacturer has to offer. The 2020 BMW X3 M (and Competition) earn the full M chassis and suspension system with M adaptive dampers. The 2020 Mercedes-AMG GLC 63 S features the AMG Sport Suspension with AIR BODY CONTROL. The resulting handling characteristics are mind-boggling in both instances, especially when considering their curb weight which hovers in the 4,500-4,600 lb.
In the braking department, it’s more of the same – cross-drilled and multiple piston-callipers. The AMG gets the full AMG high-performance braking system. In the BMW’s corner, it’s all M Compound everything. And lastly, each include quad tailpipes at the very tip of their standard sport exhaust systems.
As these are both the flagship editions of their lineup, they are loaded with the latest technology, comfort and luxury features, or nearly.
There’s little to discuss here. Multi-way highly supportive sport seats, fancy interior trimmings and attention to detail are the norm. The major difference is that the BMW X3 M is a more modern vehicle which means that it holds a 12.3-inch fully-digital instrument cluster and a larger standard 10.25 infotainment display.
As compact SUVs, the AMG and BMW hold a considerable amount of gear in their generous boots. This is a considerable draw over their car-based siblings.
Our Thoughts On The 2020 BMW X3 M and 2020 Mercedes-AMG GLC 63 S
First, the aforementioned Alfa Romeo Stelvio Quadrifoglio is for those who enjoy punishment. It is maniacally fast, incredibly powerful but is as refined as a horse-drawn carriage. For these reasons, most humans would not consider it, hence why it is omitted here – this explains why I would have it on my short list over the AMG GLC 63 S. This vehicle’s raw silliness speaks volumes to me. And then, there’s the new Porsche Macan Turbo which is a considerable foe.
To see them side-by-side or separately, there can be no doubts that these are serious performance vehicles. Here, I’d have to hand to BMW as they’ve managed to blend aggressive design cues without overdoing flares, aero and other visual go-fast bits. The Mercedes-AMG is properly aggressive and, well, there’s nothing wrong with it.
The 2020 Mercedes-AMG GLC 63 S’ biggest fault is that it pretends to be a Benz and fails miserably at it. I came into the GLC expecting mad power with a level of refinement that is normally associated with a Mercedes product. Fact of the matter, it’s barely more civilized for daily usage than the Stelvio. The 2020 BMW X3 M, and in this case, the Competition, actually retains a minimal amount of savoir-vivre that allows it to be considered an everyday super-SUV.
As for pricing, the gap is also no existent. Certainly, the $82,700 basic BMW X3 M can be an appealing option but then, it’s not the ultimate X3 M. That title belongs to the X3 M Competition which happens to retail for $93,000, or dollar for dollar, the AMG GLC 63 S’ exact base price. The right options will increase sticker shock reactions as the can both be spec’d to over $100,000, with little effort.
If you happen to read my 2019 Mercedes-AMG GLC 63 S review, you’ll notice that I’m not that fond of the vehicle. The tested 2020 BMW X3 M Competition, on the other, would earn my vote and money.